I believe we should create European Universities — a network of universities across Europe with programmes that have all their students study abroad and take classes in at least two languages. These European Universities will also be drivers of educational innovation and the quest for excellence. We should set for ourselves the goal of creating at least 20 of them by 2024. However, we must begin setting up the first of these universities as early as the next academic year, with real European semesters and real European diplomas.
We should begin creating these ties from high school. I want us to begin harmonizing and mutually recognizing secondary diplomas. As we have already done for university students through the Bologna Process, let’s launch a Sorbonne Process to create a programme accommodating exchanges, changes and transitions throughout the European secondary-school system.
Because as Mounier said, “that which is universal speaks to people in several languages, each of which reveals its own singularity.” These initiatives are not acts of resistance. They are acts of conquest for future generations. Because what remains at the end is that which unites people! It is this collegiate life together that you will experience in Paris, Milan, Berlin or Gdansk. This is what matters, what makes up this European cement, this unbreakable tie that holds Europe together, so that when governments lock horns, when policies change, there are women and men who can carry these shared histories on.
But most of all, I want you to understand that it is up to your generations to build this Europe in several languages. A multilingual Europe is a unique opportunity. Europe is not a homogenous area into which we must all dissolve. European sophistication is an ability to see all the many parts without which Europe would not be Europe. But it is also what makes Europeans, when they travel, more than just French, just Greek, just German or just Dutch. They are European, because they have inside of them this universalism of Europe and its multilingualism.
Europe must be shaped by these languages and it will always be made of the untranslatable. We must work hard to keep this. Political and journalistic debate is fuelled by untranslatable notions. Let me share with you something I’ve learned: tomorrow, some people will be seeking out the small divergences and the debates around this speech, and those without any ideas of their own will be focusing on the sticking points, saying “look, there. . .”. But I’ve noticed that, while there are indeed sticking points at times, they are often not about fundamental issues. They are about something untranslatable, something that stems from a difference in language, in culture. The word “debt” is a perfect example: it does not have the same meaning or implications in France as it does in Germany. We need to consider this when we speak to each other.
Our political debates are always more complicated in Europe than in the rest of the world. Because, in some ways, the European Sisyphus always has his untranslatable burden to roll up the hill. But this untranslatable burden is in fact an opportunity. It is the mysterious part inside each of us, and it is the part of us that trusts in the European project. It is the fact that at a given moment, despite not speaking the same language and having these unfamiliar and complex differences, we decide to move forward together instead of letting those things drive us apart. I champion this untranslatable quality, our complex differences, because I want to imagine Sisyphus happy.